HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
What have you made lately?

Risotto without chicken stock?

desserina Jul 5, 2013 08:33 PM

I'm going to attempt my first hand at risotto sometime this week, but I really, really don't want to make chicken stock (or any stock) and I can't buy it where I live. Is it possible to make good risotto without chicken stock? Thanks

  1. Bada Bing Jul 7, 2013 05:50 AM

    Could you say a bit about why you don't want to make or buy stock (I can't imagine where you might be where it's not buyable in some form)?

    Anyway, you can definitely make risotto without stock, but just keep in mind that risotto will taste pretty much exactly like what it's cooked in.

    To some extent, these flavors can come from what other ingredients are involved. When I make squid or shrimp risotto, for example, I briefly saute the raw seafood part in the pan with some butter and olive oil, then remove that so it won't overcook, and then prepare the risotto in the same pot: a good bit of flavoring can come from the juices at that first stage of cooking. Fresh shitaki or crimini mushrooms could have some of the same effect.

    If you have dried wild mushrooms (esp. porcini), you can rinse them and then soak them in heated (not boiling water) for 1`5-20 minutes, which will create a mushroom fluid that's very tasty.

    Other flavorings: a dash of fish sauce early on; whole garlic cloves cooked with the risotto (can be picked out later, according to taste).

    Still, if you're genuinely somewhere without chicken stock to buy, then it's hard to imagine most of these other ingredients are handy for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bada Bing
      hotoynoodle Jul 7, 2013 06:20 AM

      you can also simmer the shrimp shells with aromatics for 1/2 hour to get shrimp stock.

      1. re: hotoynoodle
        Bada Bing Jul 7, 2013 06:34 AM

        Indeed. I'd thought of suggesting that, too, but remained so distracted by the idea of a place without buyable chicken stock that I wondered how raw shrimp shells could be had there. But yes, I always save shells in freezer bags to make quick stocks for risotto.

        In fact, I like King Crab shells so much for this purpose that I honestly think I'm as excited by the shells as by the flesh. You can make amazing risotto or paella with King Crab shell stock.

    2. petek Jul 6, 2013 07:16 PM

      Yes you could make risotto with plain water,you just need to add more flavors at the beginning(shallots,garlic good olive oil and white wine) and to the finished product(butter,cheese and lots of fresh herbs).Will it be the same as a risotto made with stock? Probably not but it'll still be tasty.
      A simple veg stock isn't that hard to make,Carrots,cellery onions a bay leaf or 2 some fresh thyme and parsley sprigs,simmer for and hour or so and voila!.Also, making a "tea" from dried porcinis is also a great way to add a depth of flavor to your risotto.

      1. j
        JudiAU Jul 6, 2013 06:53 PM

        Stock is an important part of flavoring the rice so no, I don't think you can make good risotto without it. It doesn't have to be chicken (vegetable + porcini soaking liquid would be great) but it needs to be flavorful.

        I would never make risotto without homemade stock.

        1. paulj Jul 6, 2013 01:28 PM

          I see from your profile that you are in Taiwan.

          You could think of risotto as a variation on Asian congee, rice porridge. How is that flavored? In Italian cooking chicken stock adds the same kinds of flavors (esp umami) that Asians get from soy sauce, dashi, ham, mushrooms, msg, etc. The hard grating cheese used in Italian cooking is another source of umami (as is tomato).

          2 Replies
          1. re: paulj
            desserina Jul 6, 2013 04:14 PM

            Oh, thank you! Now I really understand...thanks again!! :)

            1. re: paulj
              ipsedixit Jul 6, 2013 06:38 PM

              Many times congee is made with water. The seasonings come after the congee has been made.

              Best seasoning for congee? Chinese pork floss!

              Man, I could eat congee mixed with pork floss endlessly. In fact, I often have dreams of swimming in a huge swimming pool filled with congee mixed with pork floss ...

            2. Karl S Jul 6, 2013 01:24 PM

              There are plenty of nonnas in Italy who will use a combination of beef and chicken (not just one or the other) bouillon cubes diluted at half-strength (a key point for using those cubes) for making risotto. It will not have the *mouthfeel* of stock (that's what gelatin is for...), but the flavor of the finished dish will feel more rounded.

              1. paulj Jul 6, 2013 01:06 PM

                I don't understand this emphasis on stock in risotto. In my experience, wine used near the start is a stronger flavor. It adds an acidity that is missing most other rice dishes. Then there's the cream and cheese added at the end, that adds both flavor and creaminess (on top of the creaminess from the rice starch).

                Most risotto recipes call for flavoring elements like onion, herbs, and mushrooms.

                I recently used a can of low salt chicken stock and thought it was flavorless. Obviously salt is a big part of the taste in soup. But it also lacked body, the kind of gelatinous quality that I get in my home made chicken stock. Even the home made stock is not 'strongly flavored'.

                I do use commercial chicken (and beef) 'bouillon' flavorings (including 'better than ...' type), but think of those as an enhanced way of adding salt to the rice.

                7 Replies
                1. re: paulj
                  Chinon00 Jul 6, 2013 03:48 PM

                  So you avoid stock in your risottos?

                  1. re: paulj
                    hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 07:41 PM

                    "I recently used a can of low salt chicken stock and thought it was flavorless."


                    compared to good home-made stock it is absolutely is.

                    i do agree that wine instead of plain water would be a big improvement.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      sunshine842 Jul 6, 2013 08:13 PM

                      but you can't cook risotto in *all* wine...it won't be edible.

                      1. re: sunshine842
                        hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 08:38 PM

                        correct. i wasn't suggesting that, sorry.

                    2. re: paulj
                      John Francis Jul 7, 2013 06:39 AM

                      "I don't understand this emphasis on stock in risotto"

                      Along with the rice, stock or broth defines the dish - literally, it's in the dictionaries.


                      You can try to do without it, but if so, then you're making something else. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the OP did ask about "risotto."

                      1. re: John Francis
                        paulj Jul 7, 2013 09:20 AM

                        Though on this Italian Wiki page I don't see as strong an emphasis on 'brodo' as in English definitions


                        The use of a broth that is compatible with the other flavors certainly contributes to the overall flavor of the dish. But it is not required to produce the characteristic creamy consistency.

                        My own definition would focus on 2 things
                        - a creamy consistency based on the starch from the rice (this then dictates the choice of rice, and the cooking method


                        - strong flavors (as opposed to a plain rice).

                        1. re: paulj
                          Chinon00 Jul 7, 2013 10:08 AM

                          But you do understand that most commonly broth is added to risottos for considerable flavor?

                    3. sunshine842 Jul 6, 2013 08:30 AM

                      Risotto is all about the flavor of the cooking liquid -- arborio cooked with unflavored water is just rice.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: sunshine842
                        hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 08:31 AM

                        and super-starchy rice at that.

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          monavano Jul 6, 2013 09:11 AM

                          Get a boil-in-bag and be done with it.

                          1. re: sunshine842
                            pedalfaster Jul 6, 2013 01:40 PM

                            Totally agree with the above ^^^ and as a vegetarian it is ~really~ time-consuming to make decent and tasty veggie stock that is satisfying ( months of saving veggie trimmings in the freezer---unlike those of you who have the luxury of simply de-boning a chicken for dinner and throwing the left overs in a stockpot). We tend to use olive oil as our fat.

                            So this may be heresy, but I mostly skip "true" risotto and use {{{gulp}}} orzo pasta when I want that mouth-feel.

                            1. re: pedalfaster
                              girloftheworld Jul 7, 2013 05:44 PM

                              have you ever tried using apple cider?

                              1. re: girloftheworld
                                paulj Jul 7, 2013 07:15 PM

                                One of my Italian cookbooks has pumpkin & apple risotto. It calls for a 'fruity white wine'. A cider (the true fermented stuff) might work.

                                1. re: paulj
                                  girloftheworld Jul 7, 2013 07:27 PM

                                  yes.. make sure it is real apple cider.. not Motts apple juice...

                          2. j
                            John Francis Jul 6, 2013 08:03 AM

                            I suppose you could make risotto with whatever liquid you use to cook rice, even water. It's more a cooking method than a recipe. But risotto made with water isn't going to be very pleasing. If nothing else, you can use a base or even bouillon cubes (like Maggi) to make some kind of savory flavorful liquid. cowboyardee's already said most of this, but I'll say it again.

                            1. Master Jul 6, 2013 04:36 AM

                              Yes, risotto can be made with water rather than broth. Often when making risotto if I don;t have broth or stock I'll simmer sausage or chicken in the water to be used for the rice, the finished dish does not have the depth of flavor that it would made with broth or stock it's good all the same.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Master
                                magiesmom Jul 6, 2013 07:52 AM

                                well, that's because you have effectively made a simple stock, no?

                              2. greygarious Jul 5, 2013 09:16 PM

                                Can you get Better Than Bouillon bases? The chicken is also available in reduced sodium and is very handy. It's a supermarket item in the USA. Also sold online at www.superiortouch.com

                                1. ipsedixit Jul 5, 2013 08:58 PM


                                  In certain ways, risotto without "stock" provides a more elemental dimension for the senses. You actually get to savor the subtle earthy sweetness of the rice.

                                  Here's a good example:

                                  1. cowboyardee Jul 5, 2013 08:54 PM

                                    Not sure if it's more readily available to you, but I've made (quite good) risotto using dashi. Served it with scallops.

                                    You don't HAVE to use 'stock' - technically you can make risotto with hot water. But using a liquid that's flavorful (and savory) is pretty important to get the overall effect right. The quality and flavor of the liquid is pretty central to the quality and flavor of the finished risotto.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                      hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 08:26 AM

                                      do you put cheese in that?

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                        cowboyardee Jul 6, 2013 10:03 AM


                                        1. re: cowboyardee
                                          hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 11:06 AM

                                          ok, phew. lol. i love dashi and need to use it more. thanks!

                                    2. Chinon00 Jul 5, 2013 08:52 PM

                                      As goes your stock, so goes your risotto. It's literally the most important factor.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Chinon00
                                        C. Hamster Jul 7, 2013 10:23 AM


                                      2. a
                                        AAQjr Jul 5, 2013 08:50 PM

                                        Make a quick stock with a couple (2 or 3, the more the marrier really) leeks (cleaned), use the whole thing, it will all be strained anyway. 1 head of garlic cut in half, a good knob of butter and big pinch of salt). simmer 30-45 minutes. strain and save.

                                        I really is easy and lends a nice background note to what ever flavors you want to add. Personally I would not go with straight water, myself. Oh and make this a day or two ahead to make your life easier.

                                        Good luck and good cooking

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: AAQjr
                                          hotoynoodle Jul 6, 2013 08:26 AM

                                          i'd also add a couple carrots, bay, thyme and peppercorns.

                                          rice and water makes a bland finished product, no matter how much salt you add in.

                                          it's a lot of effort to make risotto and you're kinda shooting yourself in the foot starting out with lackluster liquid.

                                        2. monavano Jul 5, 2013 08:39 PM

                                          I think you need stock, personally. Even if you throw together a quick vegetable stock, it's worth the time and effort considering risotto is all about the loose texture.

                                          Show Hidden Posts